Over the years in writing this blog we've received several requests to compare the old rich of Europe to the new rich in America, which I've been reluctant to tackle. But I do have some observations to share if you have the time and patience.
While the differences between European and American rich people are huge, they're also rather obvious and easy to understand. In America's relatively short history we threw off the rule of kings during the Revolutionary War, and consequently there is no royal class in the United States.
As well and good as that all might be, the unfortunate side effect is that our rich people in America are unrestrained by a disciplined upper class. Like fish out of water, they're flopping around and free to run amok with whatever self aggrandizement and nutty ideas they have going on in their brains.
But in Europe it's not so. No matter how rich you can make yourself in whatever way you do so, you're still up against the royals at the very top of the social scale, and you cannot cross that barrier into royalty no matter how much cash you've managed to accumulate.*
Oddly enough, some of the royals might not have a dime to their name. But they're still royals, and way ahead of the rich in social standing. After various wars and revolutions - making mention of the Romanov family in Russia being murdered in cold blood, and the rich people in France being sent off to the guillotine - the royals were driven from power and questionable republics sprung up all over the place in Europe.
Allowing for this topsy-turvy new world even Regina, Queen of England, was reduced to being a figure head of her new Parliamentary Government. But you'll have to admit her social position remains much higher than anyone in the Parliament, surpassing even that of the late Sir Winston Churchill himself. When she goes out in public the press and tens of thousands follow her every move, don't they? Not so for members of Parliament.
Many of the royals in Europe went into hiding during these turbulent times, and collected in places where the cost of living was low, lots of them fleeing to Portugal. Nonetheless, to this day there's always mention in the press about some Italian, French or Spanish prince or princess, long gone from power, but who's hereditary titles still reign court in modern high society.
The reason we look to these people for guidance is simple. They're the guardians of civility, customs, and manners in all their various countries and cultures, which gives us something to emulate and strive for. Even here in the USA we still look to our American guardians of British manners for style and class - Amy Vanderbilt and Emily Post.
I know this hardly covers the topic. But the differences among the rich are vast in all nations and cultures. Even in America we have the notion that the old-school rich on the east coast are somehow superior to the clueless new rich on the west coast, and there's some rational reasoning behind that, if I might say. However, the lines are blurred today; there's most certainly new rich on the east cost, and old rich on the west. So, as Oscar Wilde might have said, "The whole argument is a colossal waste of time."
I hope this post wasn't a colossal waste of yours. Thanks for stopping by this evening,
* Of course there's such a thing as Knighthood and Damehood, offered by the royals to those whose accomplishments and contributions to society transcend their non-royal roots: Dame Elizabeth Taylor, Sir Paul McCartney, Dame Edith Evans, Sir Richard Branson - to name but a few.